Sunday, December 06, 2009

What Happens When the Money Runs Out

A government health care program to provide breast cancer screening for women in California has closed to new patients because the funding has run dry.
The "unprecedented fiscal challenges" claimed another victim this week as health officials decided to discontinue a cigarette tax-funded program that pays for breast cancer screenings for low-income women.

Mandatory changes were required this week by California Department of Public Health to the division, Every Woman Counts. The specialized division provides a cancer detection program for California's medically underserved women by giving them access to screening and diagnostic services for breast and cervical cancer.

The two biggest changes to the program according to a release are:

* They will stop paying for breast cancer screening for women under 50.

* They will stop enrolling all new patients for breast cancer screening until July 1.
Cigarette tax funding was supposed to provide a funding mechanism for health care programs around the nation, but higher taxes and fees on cigarettes combined with fewer smokers and raiding the tobacco settlement funds have meant that revenues have fallen or have already been committed to use elsewhere and aren't available to fund these kinds of programs. That means states have to look elsewhere, or they have to shutter useful health care programs such as this.

This should also serve as a warning for the national health care debate, where Democrats are busy trying to claim that a 10-year budget under the health care changes they propose will somehow manage to be deficit neutral even as they are taking 10 years of tax revenues to pay for seven years of spending on the new system.

That is unsustainable in any form since once you're 10 years into the tax revenues, those revenues will not be able to keep up with the costs for the program and will balloon the deficit or force a restriction on the spending - reducing access to health care in order to reduce costs.

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